Western Tea service

Western Tea

Most people in the west drink a westernised style of tea, which is derived from the English and perfected by the Victorians. Tea with with milk and sugar. However tea in the far east was a subtle blend of various plant leaves to produce a more delicate more fragrant drink. But this somehow got lost as tea went westward into Europe.

The traditional way to make tea is use a teapot. then boil water, warm the teapot first add the boiling water then mix in the tea leaves. Some people add the tea leaves first then add the boiling water. I don’t think it matters too much which way round one does it.

There are many types of tea and a whole world of Chinese teas to discover.

Chinese tea  Japanese tea

Teas from the East

However you can’t do this with green and white teas, boiling water is just too hot and scolds the delicate tea leaves. The end result is a mediocre tea, a tea that’s not at its best. The history of tea

Kettles that allow you to set the temperature

However good news is at hand, someone invented a variable temperature kettle and as you can see in this link to the variable temperature kettles site There are many fine examples. Kettles which heat water to a selected temperature are now as easy to purchase as are the standard, more traditional kettles.

It must now be self evident that heating water up to the correct temperature to make tea is perfect for those of us that have struggled to make the perfect cup of jasmine tea. We’re now able to brew these green, white, and black teas just as they should be – at the ideal temperature.

Other benefits that a Kettle with a variable temperature gives

Another advantage is that making tea correctly ultimately saves money. Why? Because by not boiling water you’re not wasting energy. You not going to save a fortune but remember the old proverb “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”. So any money saved has got to be a bonus.

The other benefit is that these variable temperature kettles aren’t that expensive either. There are more expensive models with extra features but in my opinion these aren’t necessary. You just need the basics, able to set the temperature and that’s it. But luckily all models are able to keep the water at the selected temperature for a period of time, which is another nice bonus.

green tea plantation

soft water from a faucet

The Water Softening Process

A water softener, fitted to your incoming water supply, will convert hard water that enters you home into soft water. So hard water in, soft water out.

Most of us live in hard water areas and this is supplied to us and is what comes from out of our taps. Now hard water is not harmful to us (biologically). But it’s not great either.

Problem One – Limescale

Limescale is the is the substance we see that was contained in the water, that’s the stuff that makes the water hard in the first. The limescale is minerals coming out of solution. This is causes the white gritty deposit around taps, faucets, etc. It doesn’t look nice and you have to buy chemical treatments to keep it under control.

But this is only a cosmetic problem, limescale affects all of your appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines and boilers. The build up of limescale causes these appliances to fail earlier than they should – there not cheap to replace.

Manufacturers put devices into their appliances to control limescale build up but it doesn’t prevent the problem. It just slows it down. It would much better to control the limescale in the first instance.

water dropletsProblem Two – Washing

We wash with soap, whether it’s our clothes, our bodies, our hair. Soap helps us to become clean. But hard water and soap don’t mix too well.

Soap tends to curdle in hard water. You end up with a greasy slurry instead of a nice soapy lather. To overcome this problem you have to use more soap.

It’s worse for our clothes when they’re in our washing machines. The rinse cycle leaves a residue behind which slower makes our clothes coarse to the touch. One solution is to add a conditioner into the rinse cycle. But again we’re only putting off the inevitable which is to replace abrasive clothes with fluffy new ones.

More soap, conditioner equals more expense each time you wash your family’s clothes.

Water Softener to the Rescue

Once you have a water softener installed, the hard water is now converted to soft water, no more limescale means lower costs to you. The benefits of a water softener to you are lower cost both in the short term and the long term.

But how does a Water Softener actually work?

It’s actually quite simple and uses a bit of simple science. You can find an in depth explanation here How Does a Water Softener work. Here we give a simply explanation.

When a mineral dissolves in water it splits into something called ions. Two ions to be precise. You don’t have to know too much about these ions except for one important detail. Ions carry an electrical charge, which is either positive or negative. The two minerals present in water that make it hard are calcium and magnesium. These ions both have a positive charge.

The water softener has a cylinder filled with millions of microscopic, negatively charged beads. As the water passes through it, the positive ions of the calcium and magnesium are attracted to and stick to these beads. It’s that simple.

clean soft water from a water fountainThe Regeneration

But eventually all the beads are fully saturated and have no more negative charge left. Which means the calcium and magnesium ions can no longer be extracted and so no more soft water. At this point salt blocks, which are installed to the water softener, are used to regenerate the beads so that they continue to soften the incoming water.

This regeneration process happens automatically, the salt is effectively just ordinary table salt delivered to you as blocks. These are dissolved into the water which release sodium ions, which have a positive charge.

The sodium ions dislodge the calcium and magnesium from the beads but the sodium ions are unable to stick the beads themselves. So once again the beads regain their negative charge. Which means that the water softener is able to continue softening the water.

Water is used during the regeneration process and this water is flushed away and takes all the calcium, magnesium and sodium ions with it.

The better water softeners have two chambers filled with beads. Which means that as one chamber is being regenerated the second chamber can continue the softening process. Thus providing soft water continuously into your home.

That is a simple explanation of the water softening process but you can find more details on the chemistry here

Pink Luggage Sets

pink butterfliesPink is my Color

My color is pink, pink pink and pink. I’m not pink mad you understand, I don’t have everything pink. But I use it as an accent color, as a color in my clothing, on my nails, pink highlights in my hair, you get the picture – I like pink.

My Travel Requirements

I wanted a three piece luggage set and out had to be, you guessed it pink. I went to this site Pink Luggage sets. They have five of the very best pink luggage sets around. Which made my job a lot easy. Rather than wade through hundreds of pink luggage sets and check specs and reviews, they did it for me. A no brainer really.

Go for Chunky Wheels

I’ve had spinner cases before and one of the first things to go are the little wheels (why don’t they make these extra tough). When the wheels go the case becomes useless. Unless you can replace the broken wheels, which unfortunately you can’t on most cases.

They other thing that happens with wheels is they stick or become jammed. That’s a real pain pulling a heavy case that wants to go in a different direction. So I made sure that the wheels on my new pink luggage set were up to the task.

Why I Chose a Three Piece Luggage Set

But why choose a 3 piece luggage set? For me I drive around to friends at weekends and up along the coast. Three cases means I can take a lot of things. But as usual there’s always soothing I forget but that’s a different story. Choosing a Luggage set

If I fly I take the biggest and smallest cases and leave the mid sized one as home. The small case I use as hand baggage and take it into the aircraft cabin with me.

The suitcase I choseA Pink Hardshell Luggage Set for Me

I chose hard shell luggage because they’re made from tough plastic and I know that airports throw cases around, especially when you can’t see them doing it. So those cases have to be of sturdy construction.

Other Things I consider

The next thing I look to is the locks. I want tough tamper proof locks that don’t just fall to pieces when yanked.

Finally, the zips. The zipper has one function and that is to keep the bag closed. But as in everything else, there zips and there zips. But surely all zips are created equal?

Cheap zips tend to jam easily or break as you apply force to get the case to close (trying to get too much in). Or the zip puller gives way and snaps off. packing the case the right way

I’ve had cases where the zipper completely failed and I had to buy a belt at the store to keep the case from spilling the contents all over the floor. Luckily I was driving. If I’d been flying I would have to have bought a new case. More tips on packing your case

Storage When Not In Use

The storage does it for me. I don’t need to tell you that each case fits inside the next one up. So I only need storage for the big case. That’s a real plus because I live in an apartment and every bit of space is important for me.

So there you have it a nice pink luggage set, well put together and which I expect to last me a long time. Well worth the investment.

Newer iphones from Apple

The great news coming from Apple is that all new iphones from models 8 onwards, now have built in wireless charging as standard, which is a great step forward. If a little behind the curve, Samsung, Sony, HTC and others have all had this feature for a number of years. But better late than never.

Something else that’s quite useful is that the wireless charging technology is common between both Apple and Google devices. Which means they can both use the same charging pads – when could you every charge both Apple and Android with the same charger? the answer is like never.

What this means is that if you share you home/office/space with those Android folk, you can now share chargers and charge together.

history of the iphone

jumping into the iphone

Old iphones can be Wirelessly Charged too

That’s great for the new phones but what about the old Apple iphones? Are they just excluded from the wireless charging world? Well apparently not. Sites like this one iphone wireless charging allow all previous models of iphone to charge wirelessly. Which is both compatible with the new iphones and all those Android phones as well. A home run if you ask me.

Plus, converting your phone to wireless charging isn’t going to break the bank. It’s a simple device, plug it into the iphone’s connector, then fold the little panel over the back of your iphone, where it sticks to it. Then place it on any compatible charging pad and watch it charge.

iphone, getting started

iphone ready for sound

Some Things to Remember

Remember this is just a trickle charge it’s not as fast as direct charging. But the main thing is to get into the habit of placing it on a charger when not in use. Then you can just grab it, if it rings without having to disconnect the charging cable.

When you’re on your way out, you’ll (i) know where the phone will be and (ii) you’ll know that it’s going to contain some charge as opposed to no charge. All very useful traits to have.

the iphone range

Grand PianoMy Musical Indulgence

We’ve always had a electronic keyboard in our house. It was for me really, it’s in a quiet part of the house where I can go and indulge. I can play and sing to my heart’s content and not bother anyone else.

By everyone else I mean my wife and our the children. They will normally go and watch a movie together and they’ve gotten used to me leaving the family group and doing my own thing.

I even like doing the tidying up in the kitchen because I can put on a CD and listen and sing to whatever I fancy. I find it very uplifting and it puts me in good spirits.

Teaching my Kids to Play

We both made a conscious decision that all children would be taught to play piano. Not from me, although I would help and encourage them, but from a proper piano teacher.

It’s that formal teaching that counts. Taking away from the house in another environment that focuses the mind on the task in hand – which is learning to play the piano.

Why did a do this? We’re we trying to create the next great concert pianist? No, what we wanted to do was to stretch their minds. I believe and my wife agrees, that young minds are very malleable. When you learn a musical instrument, at a very young age, you’re flexing your mind and making it more adaptable, opening up different neuron pathways in the brain.

It’s also a great thing to be able to create music and we hope that our children will get the music bug and that it lives within them for ever.

playing an electric keyboard  electronic keyboard  88 key keyboard

Time to get an 88 key digital piano

After lessons, the children are given something to practice, at home, until the following lesson. Straight away I realized that my keyboard wasn’t up it. The children were being taught on a real piano and my keyboard has a small keyboard. Good, but not the real deal.

That’s when I decided to upgrade. We couldn’t afford a real piano but I wanted something that had a full keyboard and correctly weighted keys, like the ones here http://keyboardpiano88keys.com.

So that’s what we did, we very quickly bought an 88 key keyboard for my eldest daughter and it paid off. Her piano playing skills have come on leaps and bounds.

And as a bonus, my playing has improved as well.

Learn to play piano online

Reasons to learn to play as an adult

It’s never to late to learn

Around the Bonfire

Camping a cheap but great vacation

With money a bit tight this year, exotic holidays were out. In fact even non exotic holidays were out. A family of six growing individuals makes a huge debt in our joint bank account so we had to come up with something more modest this year.

So no overseas trips, no Disney, no Vegas, no Niagara falls, etc. But we still wanted a vacation. If you’ve worked all year but can’t take a vacation, you might as well be working for nothing. And we all needed a two week break, somewhere. And it had to be cheap.

Taking sound advice

Asking around, a colleague at the office takes his family camping. That’s always been their vacation. They change destinations each year and most importantly – it’s cheap. Besides he goes fishing some weekends and camps over for the weekend close to where he fishes.

Important for me, who hadn’t been camping since I was a teenager. He was going to advise what I needed and what I needed to do. All his valuable experience was brought to bear in our planning stage.

Camping Tent

We needed a tent

First thing was the tent, 8 person tent like the ones featured here best 8 person tent. Why an 8 man tent when there’s only six of us? Well as Bob explained, you need more space than the size of your party. Because people carry all sorts of additional things and you want these inside, not outside the tent. It made sense.

Then myself and Bob and my two eldest boys practised putting out up in the garden. It was a complete mess at first and had Bob not been around I would have given up. But with his encouragement and the two boys really helping out, we mastered it. Equally important and quite critical is to take the tent down again and pack it away properly. We achieved official “8 Person Tent” expert status.

The vacation was perfect and went without a hitch and we all spent quality time with one and other. Camping so something I highly recommend.

further reading – How to erect a Tent

further reading – How to take down a Tent

Petrol-Chemical Age

We live in the petrol-chemical generation. Like it or not we have seen plastics and fossil fuels dominate our environments and not always for the good. Car fumes and plane pollutants fill the air we breathe and fill the skies with an oil film haze.

But it is what it is and things are looking good for the future when the age of the electric driverless car arrives. And I, for one, can’t wait. For starters, the air will be cleaner, a lot cleaner. An electric motor is simpler than a petrol or diesel combustion engine and there’s no gear box (unless you really want one) so maintenance costs should drop to non-existent. They’ll be safer too, not immediately but they will get there quite rapidly and remove human error at a stroke, which is the major cause of accidents.

Plastics Today

Plastics are amazing, if I go back to my grandparents time, there were none. They had stockings and Bakelite and that was it. Their materials were mainly natural products such as wood ceramics and metals. But the age of plastics began slowly and today, things that were inconceivable, are now made from these new materials. And we, as a race, haven’t stopped yet, more and more plastics with different qualities will come, I’m sure.

Blog, Takeoff

This is my blog and I like to write about things that interest me and that I want to share with the world. I’ll write about the things that I feel are interesting to others and whatever takes my fancy.

This has been my first blog post and I’ll be adding many more and I’ll be adding many more as my mood takes me. I’ll try and make it relevant and not just rant to get things off my chest. Hopefully you’ll find it useful and keep popping back from time to time.